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Martin rejects opposition 
election demand

[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:30 p.m. November 14, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Prime Minister Paul Martin emerged from a cabinet meeting Monday and again rejected a proposal by the three opposition parties for him to call an election in January.  
  

Martin called the opposition demand for an early election "untenable" 

Speaking in the foyer of the House of Commons before question period with about a dozen senior MPs from all parties assembled with reporters watching, Martin mocked the opposition for their proposed motion that would essentially ask the government to resign but continue to have Parliament operate until Christmas.

"In our system of Parliament, you don’t get to vote, 'No, but Yes for now,'" Martin said. " There is no such thing as non-confidence lite."

The opposition parties are united in a plan to put forward a motion requesting the government call an election in the first week of next year. 

The parties are trying to avoid being blamed for a Christmas election campaign and for killing two key pieces of legislation -- the supplemental estimates, which contain a number of popular spending propositions, and the government's plan to send energy rebate checks to low-income Canadians to deal with higher winter heating costs. 

They argue that if Martin doesn't back their motion then he is to blame for all these initiatives being killed when they introduce a non-confidence motion next week. 

But Martin is saying the opposition will be blamed for the Christmas election, not him.

"If the opposition parties act on their threat to bring down the government, there will be a price: much will be lost. And for what?" he asked. "For eight weeks’ difference. And what do Canadians gain? An election campaign they don’t want, at a time of year that is supposed to be about family, not partisan politics."

The question remains, why do the opposition parties still plan to go ahead with their motion asking the prime minister to call an election when he has now publicly rejected it? Why not just defeat the government on a non-confidence motion this week?

An opposition motion setting an election date is non-binding on the government. But a non-confidence vote is.

"We would like to have a vote in the House of Commons to establish whether a majority of the House supports the compromise," said NDP leader Jack Layton. 

"I believe the majority of the House does support the compromise and that should be established so that if the prime minister is deciding to turn his back on the majority of the House then it's a fact and he'll have to explain it to Canadians."

Although there were really no new developments in Ottawa on Monday, there was an electric atmosphere on Parliament Hill similar to the days leading up to the confidence showdown in May. 

In question period, NDP MP Bill Blaikie lashed out at the prime minister for rejecting out of hand the opposition plan for a post-Christmas election call. 

"If the prime minister has the right to say when the election should be, Parliament has the right to say when the election should be and we all have the right to say when the election should be, by mutual consent," Blaikie said.

"Here is somebody who says he is against the democratic deficit. Have him them stand and say why he would reject the will of Parliament and put the interest of his own party first."

In other developments, the Bloc Quebecois ended its three-day long filibuster in the House of Commons after receiving written assurance from Government House Leader Tony Valeri that opposition days will be held on set dates. 

In response to a letter from Bloc Quebecois House Leader Michel Gauthier, Valeri said confirmed that opposition days will be held on November 15, 17, 22, 24 and 29th. And on December 1 and 8.

The key dates are November 15 -- when the Conservatives plan to use its opposition day to vote on the election date motion -- and November 22 when a non-confidence vote will be brought forward if the government rejects the November 15 motion. 

The three opposition parties have a majority of seats in Parliament and can easily pass the motions.   

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